Consumers have to expect higher prices when shopping due to rising transport costs. The logistics industry assumes this and sees the higher truck toll planned by the federal government as the reason for this. Dirk Engelhardt, spokesman for the board of the Federal Association of Road Haulage Logistics and Disposal (BGL), said in Berlin that more than 80 percent of goods are transported by truck.

Given the low margins of companies in the industry, the toll increase will be passed through on a one-to-one basis. This means that consumers pay more for the yoghurt cup, the case of water and their daily shopping. For a four-person household, Engelhardt expects additional costs of 350 to 400 euros per year. Breweries and other industries are also expecting higher prices.

The federal government’s reform plans

On Thursday, the Bundestag will discuss a federal government bill on the truck toll for the first time. A CO2 surcharge is to be introduced on December 1, 2023. Emission-free trucks, of which there are comparatively few, are to be exempt from tolls by the end of 2025. From July 2024, the truck toll will also apply to trucks with a permissible total weight of more than 3.5 tons, up until now it is 7.5 tons. Craft businesses should be excluded.

With the changes, the coalition wants to create incentives to switch to lower-emission vehicles. Billions of dollars in additional revenue from the truck toll are to be used primarily for rail – this is a change of course, because until now the toll revenue has been used for federal highways. The truck toll applies on federal motorways and federal highways.

The bill states that toll costs represent only a small proportion of the transport costs and therefore an even smaller proportion of the total cost of the end product. The impact on consumer price levels is therefore “marginal”.

Logistics industry and the “Toll Everest”

The industry sees it differently. In a statement from the Federal Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association for a hearing in the Bundestag’s Transport Committee on Monday, it was said that the toll increase would have an “inflationary effect” on consumers.

The BGL started a campaign called “Toll Everest” – with a view of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. Engelhardt is quoted on the site as saying: “We are ready to talk to politicians about concrete solutions, but we don’t want to be sent over the toll Everest.”

The association is fundamentally in favor of a CO2 toll reform – but rejects the current draft law. The federal government wants to almost double the truck toll and burden the economy and society with an additional 7.6 billion euros annually. Among other things, the BGL is calling for the reform to be postponed until January 1, 2025 and then a phased model. Significantly more funds would also be required, for example for funding programs to purchase climate-friendly vehicle technologies.

In addition, the associations doubt the “steering effect” hoped for by the coalition, i.e. a switch to lower-emission vehicles or a shift of transport to rail. On the one hand, they point to the partly dilapidated rail network. On the other hand, emission-free vehicles with electric or hydrogen drives are currently only available on the market in small numbers.

A spokesman for the Association of the Automotive Industry said that a CO2 reference in the truck toll could provide effective incentives for investments in zero-emission and low-emission trucks. However, an introduction of the CO2 toll as early as December 1st is premature in view of the development of the urgently needed charging and refueling infrastructure and the broad ramp-up of zero-emission vehicles starting in 2024.

The Federal Association of German Industry also stated that the affected transport and logistics companies did not yet have any series-ready electric or fuel cell trucks available. “The resulting additional costs will have to be passed on one-to-one by the forwarding and transport industry to the end customers of the industry and to private households,” said the deputy general manager of the BDI, Holger Lösch.

Consequences for industries

The Federal Association of German Beverage Wholesalers emphasizes that December is the month with the highest tolls. “My assumption is that December 1st is precisely due to this circumstance,” said Managing Director Dirk Reinsberg. During the Christmas business, this also brings additional administrative work for companies. Since agreements usually take place over several months, it is feared that some companies will not be able to pass on the higher toll in December. “At the end of the day, these costs will also have an impact on price developments and affect the consumer,” he emphasized. The extent of the price increase depends on the distance traveled. The additional costs were in the multi-digit cent range per beverage crate. “The higher toll affects the climate-friendly reusable box twice: on the outward journey and on the return journey.”

The joint logistics company of the beer manufacturers Radeberger Group and Veltins estimates that the new toll could mean that a reusable beverage crate with 20 half-liter bottles in Germany could cost up to 50 cents more, depending on the manufacturer and the distance to the sales area.

Markus Rütters, CEO of Deutsche Beverage Logistics, said: “The obvious tax increase under the guise of a CO2 levy comes at an inopportune time given the inflation rates, especially since no truck emits less CO2 as a result of this fiscal measure.” In fact, the commercial vehicle industry does not yet have the prerequisites for e-mobility. “It is already foreseeable that the additional burden caused by the toll increase in our company alone will amount to a high single-digit million amount, which will have to be passed on to customers via existing contracts.”

The Secretary General of the German Farmers’ Association, Bernhard Krüsken, said that many agricultural businesses would also face higher costs as a result of the increased toll. “At a time when farmers are under great economic pressure due to increased input costs, it would be inevitable that these additional costs would then also be passed on to consumers.”

From the point of view of the German Trade Association (HDE), there is currently a lack of practical vehicles available for a comprehensive replacement of conventional trucks, especially in the heavy vehicle classes. The HDE logistics department head, Ulrich Binnebößel, said that companies therefore had no choice but to accept the increasing costs of tolls with their existing vehicles and pass them on.